Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

The day when the salvation of the world was confirmed by a simple echoing cry from the darkness, 'He is not here, He is risen'.

A happy Easter to all from The Mad Monarchist

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some Time Off

Shortly the Tory Royalist from sunny Alberta will be arriving at the MM compound for a little reactionary conference. So, while we will be busy plotting counter-revolution, I will be taking some time off from business as usual. Feel free to catch up on old articles in the archives but keep in mind it might be a while before any comments are posted. A little more than a week and I should be back in action as usual. So, this will be my last post for a little while but like General MacArthur, "I shall return".

Monday, March 18, 2013

Knights and Knighthood Today

It may surprise some people who do not know very much about the subject just how extensive knighthood is today. While monarchy and aristocracy (or at least an aristocracy that is open and honest about itself) is increasingly rare, orders of knighthood still about around the world with even republics getting in on the game. However, gratifying as it might be to just leave it at that, we must face the facts about the current situation. Anyone looking at the situation today should accept the truth that practically none of the orders of knighthood that exist today have anything in common with the knighthoods of old, even if they are still some of the same orders. Their ideals and trappings may seem just as noble as they did in years past but, effectively, most are little more than clubs for the elite today with membership based on who you know rather than what you are or have done or on the size of your bank account rather than your courage or character. That certainly does not mean that every member of an order of knighthood today is unworthy, I would certainly never suggest such a thing, but simply being a “knight” today does not mean the same thing that it did in the time of the Crusades or the High Middle Ages even. As someone once said on one of my favorite television shows, “Elton John is a knight, it’s not what it used to be”.

Thankfully, people like pop stars, comedians and media personalities are generally restricted to the lowest orders of knighthood, though even that is rather ridiculous considering that someone like a movie star will receive a knighthood while someone serving in combat in the military is not. However, even the highest ranks, such as in the United Kingdom for example (being the most prominent monarchy in the world) are often given to retired politicians regardless of whether or not they accomplished anything significant or not. Giving it to one compels that it be given to all the others, I suppose, is the thinking behind this so that the monarch cannot be accused of having any favorites. The situation is even worse when it comes to non-reigning royals and the orders of knighthood associated with their particular house, as such heirs are often targeted and taken advantage of by dishonest and vain individuals who are simply out to swindle as many such appointments as possible, presumably to massage their ego. Personally, I cannot understand that mentality. After all, one could hardly take much pride in such an award and if one just likes to have lots of gongs and ribbons hanging off of them, you can dress up in whatever decorations you like and no one can stop you.

Originally, of course, knighthood was exclusively associated with combat and military service. A knight was a warrior who protected the weak and innocent against those who would molest them. Some, which required great sacrifices and which carried great risks in its service, were open to anyone. If you wanted to become a knight, you simply ‘signed up’ as it were and began working your way up the ranks. Usually, though, if the order survived for long it tended to be restricted to only men from the most elite families and an appropriately prestigious genealogical pedigree would be required for membership. Today, most orders not under the rule of a national government, have membership which is by invitation only. Again, this effectively means, it is not what you do but rather who you know that is the determining factor. Because of this, it is simply not possible for me to see modern orders of knighthood in the same light as those of long ago. This applies, unfortunately, as much to purely religious orders of knighthood such as the papal orders. For example, Rupert Murdoch (republican sleaze-peddler) was made a knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 1998, even though he is not Catholic but he did donate over $10 million to the Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California (disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony recommended him for it, if that matters to anyone). Similarly, John Wilkins, editor of “The Tablet” which voiced support for contraception, women priests, homosexual acceptance and so on, was made a knight of the Order of St Sylvester I.

This is all something which has to be seen in context of course. Orders such as the Knights of St John, the Knights of Malta, the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and so on do a tremendous amount of good around the world. To do that, obviously, requires a great deal of money and so it is, perhaps, not so surprising that some extremely wealthy people who perhaps have not exhibited the most upstanding moral behavior throughout their lives, are awarded membership. This includes some royals, whose names I will not mention, but who certainly do not seem to be very religious people who are nonetheless awarded lofty ranks in these orders of knighthood, all of them religiously based, presumably to gain some public attention and some hefty donations; which is not necessarily bad as these orders do a great deal of good work around the world as has been said. They are, however, very clearly not what they used to be and could be seen in the same way as modern monarchies with established churches. England, for example, is legally a Christian monarchy yet this is actually more like a technicality these days. It can in no way compare to the Christian monarchies of the past, yet the technicality is worth clinging to as both a reminder of what was and as a foundation for any hope of restoration.

In the future, we will be looking at some of the more famous orders of knighthood from history as knighthood is something inexorably bound up with monarchy in the popular imagination. Those we will be reviewing were very much the genuine articles and a far cry from the often merely political institutions of today. The facts should be looked at clearly though, both to discourage those (and they do exist) whose attachment to monarchy is dependent on their fascination with baubles and to show what these orders have been capable of and, were they to embrace the zeal and discipline of their origins, could be again.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St Patrick's Day

 A happy St Patrick's Day to all from The Mad Monarchist, particularly to those few and long suffering monarchists of the Emerald Isle. May the Kingdom of Ireland be one day restored and traditional Irish culture preserved and celebrated again.

High King Brian Boru
General Patrick Sarsfield
High King Malachy the Great

MM Sunday Scripture

These are those that were numbered, which Moses and Aaron numbered, and the princes of Israel, being twelve men: each one was for the house of his fathers.

-Numbers 1:44

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Beginning in the Land of the Rising Sun, HM the Emperor gave a special address on the occasion of the memorial service to commemorate the second anniversary of the “Great East Japan Earthquake” on March 11. His Majesty expressed his “deepest condolences” to the bereaved families of those lost and had words of appreciation for the Self-Defense Forces, police, fire department, Japan Coat Guard, central and local governments and the volunteers who helped in responding to the crisis. His Majesty emphasized the importance of regular evacuation drills and using the experience gained by the disaster to make things safer for everyone before assuring the people of the afflicted regions, “that our hearts are with them, and together with the people gathered here today, express our hope that days of peace and quiet will return as soon as possible”. The earthquake also featured in the keynote address by HIH Crown Prince Naruhito at the UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters. Elsewhere, farther to the south, former Nepalese Crown Prince Paras, still in hospital in Bangkok, is said to be “out of danger” and likely to be moved out of the Intensive Care Unit shortly. And, on the opposite shore of the Pacific, the Sultan of Brunei was in the United States where he met with President Obama. The President joked that the U.S. economy could be strengthened if the Sultan (worth an estimated $20 billion) would “do some shopping” while in the country.

In the Middle East, HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, meeting with TM King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. A school and children’s museum were on the itinerary for the royals to visit but what was most odd was the UK papers that tried to somehow work the Duchess of Cambridge into every royal-related story headline by saying that she and Queen Rania looked alike. I don’t see it myself. They are both thin, have long brown hair and are very attractive -but they really don’t resemble each other at all. Anyway, after visiting Jordan the royal couple will be moving on to stops in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Meanwhile, Saudi Princess Maha Al-Sudairi (ex-wife of the former Saudi Crown Prince) has been at the center of controversy in Paris where she reportedly accumulated $2 million worth of bills that have not been paid. When pressed, the Princess reportedly invoked diplomatic immunity and refused to hire a lawyer. It remains to be seen if the companies involved will ever see their money but those who spoke to ABC News did not seem optimistic.

And in Europe, you might have heard, the State of Vatican City was given a new monarch. His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina was elected to the See of Peter, taking the name “Francis” in honor of St Francis of Assisi, making him the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. There were many messages of congratulations to the new Pontiff and European royals are making plans to attend the “inaugural mass” for the new Pope. Among those who have said they will be attending are the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, the King and Queen of the Belgians, the Prince and Princess of the Asturias and the Prince and Princess of Orange. The Duke of Gloucester will represent Queen Elizabeth II and though I have not heard them mentioned, it would seem odd if someone from the officially Catholic monarchies of Liechtenstein and Monaco were not present. In other news, Queen Elizabeth II has had to cut back her schedule further due to lingering tummy troubles, missing out on some of the Commonwealth Day festivities. Elsewhere, the Royal Family of Sweden welcomed the President of Turkey to their country but it was a sad week for the Swedish monarchy as it was announced that Princess Lilian passed away on Sunday, March 10, at the age of 97. Our sympathies go out to the Swedish Royal Family on such a sad occasion. Also, for those interested in disputed successions, in a rare interview on the subject of the anniversary of the start of the Romanov reign over Russia, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow has said that the Church recognizes HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her son as the legitimate leaders of the Romanov dynasty today.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis I, What to Expect

The main word that has most been used to describe the new Pontiff, even within the first few minutes of his reign, is certainly “humility”. From all I have tried to rapidly learn about Pope Francis I since his election, it seems to me that his reign will be one that will make reformers applaud and supporters of the status quo groan. That can only be a good thing as, from all I have read, there is evidently some very firmly encrusted corruption that has built up in the curia and most expect the pope from Argentina to be just the man to clean it out. If Pope Francis proves to be as upright and intolerant of corruption and wrongdoing as is his reputation, I can only applaud him for his morals and strength of conviction. Where his humility may be less than pleasing to some is in the externals of his position. It will surprise no one I’m sure that I am myself less than thrilled about this but when a pope takes the name of “Francis” and even in his first appearance on the balcony refuses to wear the traditional red mozzetta (if my dictionary is correct, I mean the red shoulder cape of course) and only temporarily donned the elaborate stole to give his blessing before promptly taking it off, I think it is safe to say that the high fashion in traditional style of Benedict XVI has passed into retirement with him.

The humble, simple nature of the new Bishop of Rome, formerly known as Cardinal Bergoglio, is certainly laudable. Everyone has probably heard by now how he declined to live in the Episcopal Palace in Buenos Aires, opting instead for a small, modest apartment; how he cooked his own food, carried his own luggage and took the train to work rather than be driven in his own car. The standards for papal simplicity have now been kicked up a notch since Paul VI and John Paul I and I think it is safe to say that papal coronations are gone for good. Perhaps he might make good on the musings of Paul VI to disband the Swiss Guard? Castel Gandolfo Palace might be donated as an orphanage but with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI still on the premises I think the Apostolic Palace will be safe enough -he has to live somewhere and there are not that many options in a “country” the size of Vatican City. I heard one commentator remark that if Francis wishes to continue his humble means of transportation by making use of the Roman trains instead of the (horrendously named) “Popemobile” he better get used to arriving late everywhere. As I have said before with the abandonment of the Papal Tiara by Paul VI and the coronation by John Paul I, it is not that these were bad acts but that such gestures of humility are problematic because they are impossible to go back on and force future pontiffs to go to greater lengths to show their own humility. What will a future pope have to do to ‘out-humble’ Francis I?

Monarchists who long for the ceremony of the coronation, it seems, will have to be content with the British (providing that ceremony survives the Prince of Wales of course) but, to try to be optimistic, perhaps this will help win over … someone. That is my problem with this sort of stuff, I must confess; I don’t know who this is supposed to impress. Humility is something in our character, it is not something dependent on our surroundings or material possessions. I have seen plenty of people who lived in a shack on nothing but a government welfare check and had the most arrogant and haughty attitude imaginable. On the opposite side, one of the most gracious, humble and compassionate ladies I have ever known in my life is married to one of the richest men in the state and lives in a huge house with a private pool and golf course in the back yard. I am sure popes in the past were perfectly humble even with all of the splendor and ceremony as it used to be. And, I doubt anyone who sees the Pope or the papacy as arrogant and vainglorious will be won over by any giving up of external trappings. I always thought the external things were supposed to be important to Catholics.

All that being said, I am not trying to criticize the Sovereign Pontiff on his first day. I thought his asking the public to bless him before blessing them was touching and if he can clean out the corruption in the curia, I think most would agree it to be a feat worth a mozzetta. These areas of dress and ceremony are relatively minor details (the major stuff being done away with long before now) and Pope Francis may yet impress many a great deal if he is, as many have described him, as upright and intolerant of wrongdoing so as to put the Vatican to rights. When it comes to more strictly moral issues such as the most often under attack these days; abortion, contraception, gay “marriage”, a male-only clergy and so on, Pope Francis I looks to be as intransigent in his defense of doctrine as the most ardent could wish. That, at least, is what I have been hearing and I have no reason to doubt it. At this point, having had two papal elections so close together, it is rather funny to see the media babbling on and on about whether the next pope will change the Church’s position on any of these subjects -as if any Roman Pontiff ever could. One may also just as well laugh as to cry when Catholics are interviewed on the street and say they would like to see a more “tolerant” man elected pope. Tolerant? Tolerant of what? Some sympathy for the Devil next too?

Finally, we have the nationality of the new pope. I did think his remark about the cardinals going to the “end of the earth” to find a new pope rather funny. It seems safe to say, at this point, having had a Pole, a German and an Argentine in succession that Italians can say “ciao” to the papacy. As the pope is Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy it never seemed unreasonable to me that 80% of popes throughout history have been Italian but, evidently, that is another tradition that is no more. I would look for more national competitions in the coming years as everyone demands to have “their” first pope. However, the times are certainly changing, and Pope Francis may be the ideal man to ease Catholics through the transition, being the first South American pope but also being a man whose parents were native-born Italians. I have had my worries that, if this came to be, it might be bad for the already dwindling Church in Europe as people with already scant interest in the Church might come to see it as a “foreign” institution, however, it may be just as well to rip the bandage off quickly and let Christianity brush the dust off its sandals as it bids Europe farewell.

I know I caused some a bit of anxiety when, some months ago, I mentioned the fact that the European peoples are doomed to extinction in the not-too-distant future and that, at this point, nothing could be done to change that fact. Well, it seems, noted Catholic monarchist and author Charles Coulombe might agree with me. He said he would welcome a South American or African pope as the Church in Europe is just about dead and the future of Catholicism will be as a Latin American and African Church. It is only fitting then that the papacy begin to reflect the cultures and nationalities that will be the future of the Catholic Church. When asked about the nationality of Pope Francis, I heard Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington DC, among others, make the statement that “it was time” there was a Latino pope (Eva Longoria said it weeks ago, hmm…) and that says to me that there will be more non-Europeans in the future, probably fewer European electors. In that regard, Pope Francis may be blazing the trail for a Church that will probably always have to be based in Rome but which will have a noticeably non-European flock. It seems to me he will be a figure of transition, cleaning up the decay of the past to make way for gains in the future, bringing a new, simpler style to the papacy and easing Catholics into a less European future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam

Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina has been elected Bishop of Rome, Sovereign Pontiff and has taken the name of Pope Francis I. 76-years old he is most noted for his humility, for riding the bus to work, for refusing to live in the bishop's palace in his own diocese so, I think it is safe to say we will not be seeing a restoration of the papal coronation given all of that. He is the first Latin American pontiff (though obviously of Italian ancestry), the first Jesuit to be elected pope and rather than taking the name of a past pontiff as is traditional, he chose the name "Francis", undoubtedly in reference to the humble St Francis. He led the crowd in prayer, prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and to ask their prayers for himself before giving the apostolic blessing. Due to his age and imperfect health, his election was a bit of a surprise but with his past criticism of the Roman curia and his compassion for the poor, criticism of the gap between the rich and poor, many are taking his election as that of a reforming figure who will "clean out" the papal court and then pass the office on to a younger man. We will have to wait and see, there will be more to come in the days ahead but, a historic day on many fronts, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Francis I, is the new Sovereign Pontiff.

Siege of Khartoum Begins

It was on this day in 1884 that the 319-day siege of Khartoum in the Sudan began with the rebel forces of Mohammed Ahmed, who claimed to be the "Mahdi" besieged the Egyptian garrison of the city commanded by the British veteran General Charles George "Chinese" Gordon. Because of his presence and the subsequent involvement of other European forces against the rebel army such as Great Britain, Belgium and Italy, all Christian powers, and the Christian forces of Ethiopia, sometimes one can get the impression that this was a clash between the forces of Christianity and Islam -which it most certainly was not. Some have also come to see the conflict as a war for Sudanese independence, a trend probably colored by the subsequent independence of the Sudan from Egypt. Again, however, that was not the case.

At its core, the war against Mohammed Ahmed was a war within Islam, a conflict of Muslim against Muslim and the forces of the self-proclaimed "Mahdi" should not illicit sympathy from anyone. The Ulema denounced him and his pretensions and those were extensive as he was determined to bring down the Khedive of Egypt himself and by refusing to recognize the authority of the Khedive he was also refusing to recognize the authority of the Ottoman Sultan on whose behalf the Khedive ruled. One can certainly have sympathy for the Sudanese people who, in many cases it is true, did not have the best life in their native land, but Mohammed Ahmed was not fighting a war on behalf of the people as some today seem to think. He was fighting to advance himself and his grandiose claims to be the messiah and in doing that he intended to overthrow every existing legitimate authority in the Islamic world that did not submit to him, which effectively came to everyone as no serious Islamic scholar could support his fragile case. He wanted to bring down the Khedive, the local rulers of Arabia and even the Sultan himself.

Some may tend to discount this as being too far-fetched for someone leading a horde of desert tribesmen against modern armies with modern weapons. However, what can be considered too far-fetched coming from a man who starts his campaign by declaring himself to be the messiah? No, this was a real and legitimate threat, a threat to the established, existing, legitimate authorities of the region as well as a religious challenge of the first order within Islam. It is admirable that countries of different religions were willing and able to come together to stop this threat to world peace and legitimate authority before it could do even more damage than it did. It is not difficult to see that there is a lesson in this historical episode for people today.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Queen Signs Pledge for Homosexuals

In a move sure to cause controversy HM Queen Elizabeth II signed, on Sunday no less, on live television a Commonwealth pledge to fight against “discrimination” against homosexuals and to promote the “empowerment” of women -whatever that means- along with a lot of more general statements about promoting human rights and raising the standard of living across the Commonwealth. Personally, the Queen herself is one woman I would like to see “empowered” but, alas, I am sure none of this applies to Her Majesty herself. Many have cheered this as the Queen taking the monarchy “forward” but I certainly cannot be overjoyed about it. This is something that seems rather baffling, unnecessary at best and potentially harmful at worst. The one confusing thing about it was that this was taken as a statement on the part of the Queen to extend “equal rights” to the child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge if the little one turns out to be a girl. So were all the news stories about that already being a ‘done deal’ not accurate? This is one problem with the modern mainstream media; they jump on stories they like with such enthusiasm that it sometimes turns out to be a false start. Whoever is advising the Queen on this subject, it must be said, certainly has their finger on the pulse of society. Championing the cause of homosexuals is certainly the biggest and latest fashionable trend among those always on the look out for victims to be outraged over.

This is supposed to be a part of a new coming-together for the Commonwealth, laying out shared “values” and yet, nothing could be more divisive. Will this be likely to please the devout Muslim nations within the Commonwealth? It will surely be a cause for bad press in many more traditional African countries and one place where the campaign to promote homosexuality has certainly not been popular is the Commonwealth Realm of Jamaica where the monarchy is already under considerable threat. So who exactly is sure to be pleased with this pledge? I can think of few beyond the leftist liberal communities of the U.K. and Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia. Even in those countries support will not be universal and those who do not support it will see it as the monarchy siding against them and their own deeply held belief in traditional values. This is a danger I have tried to touch on before. The monarchy, the left usually says, is supposed to be totally non-political and they are quick to cry foul if the Prince of Wales utters a word about architecture or fox hunting yet when the Queen signs a pledge in support of homosexuality and feminism, this is not political we are told. It starts to look like a one-way street.

Buckingham Palace said that, “The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical, as it is on all matters of this sort.” But others point out that the Queen requested a public signing for the document which is quite rare. I hope no one opposed to this blames the Queen for it but most of my own aggravation over it stems from the fact that, justly or not, many certainly will. The optics of it will be impossible to ignore. And, as this is a Commonwealth document, I cannot help but wonder who put the matter forward? Who came up with this? The government of “Call me Dave” Cameron has been trying to put the Tories on the pro-homosexuality bandwagon lately, seeing that, as many “right wing” or “conservatives” have lately, as being the way of the future. The same can be seen to be happening in the United States with the rising profile of the libertarians; fiscal conservatives who champion things like drug legalization, prostitution, gay “marriage” and abortion (all of which is detrimental to fiscal conservatism but that’s another story for another day). Yours truly has seen it often enough as there is probably no single subject other than homosexuality that generates more angry comments and “fan mail” filled with 4-letter words. I can call for republicans to be condemned as traitors, hung drawn and quartered and no one seems to care but whenever I mention my disapproval of homosexuality I am denounced as a monster!

That must be mentioned because, were this not the number one issue it is currently most fashionable to be outraged over, this would be seen as just another nice-sounding but effectively meaningless document which governments and international organizations love to publicize. It would be about as significant as a “non-binding resolution” from the United Nations. However, because of the subject matter, it will be highly publicized and talked about endlessly with the Queen being given kudos by some and condemned by others for putting her name to it. The problem is that while it will, I have no doubt, cause some people around the world to drop their support for the monarchy, I doubt very seriously than anyone who was previously a republican will suddenly be won over to the cause of hereditary monarchy and traditional authority because of this. That is why I feel the Queen is doing herself no favors by signing this or that whoever arranged it is no real friend of the monarchy. It is simply a fact, seemingly self-evident I would think, yet which many cannot seem to grasp, that any society which sets “equality” as an absolute good and defines that equality by the standard of everyone being treated exactly the same is not a society in which the institution of monarchy can long survive. Monarchy and equality are antithetical concepts and there is a vast gulf between the two that no amount of pledges or reworking of the rules of succession can ever bridge.

Personally, I have never been able to have anyone explain to me how homosexuals are being discriminated against just as things stand. They are not being physically harmed, laws already exist to prevent that happening to anyone. No one is stop them from doing what they want with who they want, as distasteful as some find it and would prefer they refrain from advertising the fact. The usual answer is that they cannot get married but that is untrue. They cannot marry someone of the same sex, true, but neither can a heterosexual so it is not as though the current law is depriving them of something not deprived to others. After making that point I am usually told that I’m being ridiculous and that it is about the fact that they cannot marry who they choose and the law is unfair because it allows heterosexuals to do that but not homosexuals. Again, not true. No law can enable a person to marry whoever they want. I can’t marry a Brazilian supermodel and yet, so far, very few people sympathize with my plight. This whole controversy, if everyone were to be honest, is not really about discrimination or tolerance or anything of the sort. It is about trying to force people to approve of something they fundamentally disapprove of and that is it.

That shows, I think, which side is the truly “intolerant” one. As much as I disapprove of the homosexual agenda, this does not change my support of the British and Commonwealth monarchy at all, however, I have seen plenty of those who push the homosexual agenda who have very conditional loyalty and if the Queen had signed a pledge that was the opposite of this one they would drop whatever nominal support they had for the monarchy entirely. I would take this as yet another sign of the times we live in and nothing more. When it comes to fundamental moral beliefs about what is right and what is wrong I am under no illusions that practically any of the reigning royals of the world agree with me. Especially those since the Queen’s generation, these are people who grew up in a very permissive society and went to schools and universities that teach the exact opposite of most of what I hold dear. And, when it comes to religion, fading fast though it is in Britain, the Church of England has more or less accepted homosexuality and that is the church that the Royal Family and little Davy Cameron belong to. Most other major churches treat the issue with kid-gloves if they haven’t already reversed position on the subject. It is not the fault of the Queen that society in Britain is where it is. Who put this before her, I do not know but it would not surprise me were it to come from the current government which is led by little Davy Cameron (Church of England) and Deputy PM Nick Clegg, an avowed atheist. Clegg is married to a Catholic and claims to be raising his children Catholic but, honestly, any Catholic who would marry an atheist or someone who supports the policies Clegg supports is probably about as “Catholic” as an Orange Lodge meeting in east Belfast. But these are who the British public voted for and issue like this are not going to change or go away, no matter what the Queen does, until the public has a change of heart. We may ask God to save the Queen, and He will, but it is up to the traditional remnant in Britain to work on converting their countrymen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and his seed forever more.

-Psalm 18:50

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Beginning in Asia, at least one monarchy stands to be impacted in a big way if the communist regime in North Korea makes good on threats to launch military attacks if joint U.S.-ROK military maneuvers go ahead on Monday. Such threats are not exactly new but, as ever, it is rather like those people who predict the end of the world. Someday, they're going to be right. In Southeast Asia, Malaysian authorities are still looking for Filipino gunmen, employed by the Sultan of Sulu, in the aftermath of the shootout in Sabah last week. Filipino Muslims have been holding rallies in support of the fugitives and the Kingdom of Malaysia is also facing criticism at home for not having dealt with the issue more quickly and firmly. On the other side, the government of the Philippines is considering what legal action they may take against the Sultan of Sulu and his followers, saying that sending an armed party to Malaysia was the wrong way to press their claims to the area. The President had earlier offered not to file any charges against them if the gunmen were withdrawn peacefully, an offer the self-proclaimed Sultan did not accept. In the Middle East, the Emir of Qatar has reportedly purchased six Greek islands at a cost of $11 million. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal has cut all ties with Forbes magazine over his ranking in the list of the wealthiest people in the world, claiming they undervalued his fortune at a paltry $20 billion. And, over in North Africa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (United Arab Emirates) made a two-day visit to Algeria.

On the continent of Europe, while the princes of the Catholic Church gather in Rome for the upcoming papal election, royal heirs gathered in The Netherlands, posing for a rare group photo in Apeldoorn. Not everyone attended the meeting, called by the Prince and Princess of Orange but, along with Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima were Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of the Asturias, Crown Prince Philippe and Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. That group will not be seen again as, before another such meeting is likely, Prince Willem-Alexander with be King of The Netherlands and an heir no longer! Also making news among the younger royals was Sofia Hellqvist, the current girlfriend of Prince Carl Philip of Sweden. She responded to the rumors that she was the cause of a rift between the Prince and his younger sister Princess Madeleine. Sofia said the stories were not true and she has been warmly received by everyone in the Swedish Royal Family. In Spain HM King Juan Carlos was in the hospital again for spinal surgery but, along with his government, still managed to send a message of condolence to the Republic of Venezuela following the death of President Hugo Chavez. The two made news in 2007 when the bombastic president went on an insulting tirade against the previous Spanish government, prompting the King to famously ask, “Why don’t you shut up?”. The incident went viral in the media and the King later presented Chavez with a t-shirt featuring the famous phrase. Hugo Chavez will have his corpse preserved and put on display, following the fashion of other communist dictators from Moscow to Hanoi.

In the United Kingdom, HM the Queen was released from the hospital after a bit of stomach trouble. A week of events were canceled for the Queen, including a high-profile visit to Rome but she has had plenty of help to step in while she recovers. Prince Philip, still going strong at 91, filled in by hosting a reception at Buckingham Palace for 150 UK politicians. The Duke of Edinburgh was also assisted by his daughter-in-law the Countess of Wessex, making up for the absence of the Queen between the two of them. The Prince of Wales was busy with his own schedule but did mention that he is also happily preparing himself to be a grandfather soon. The expecting parents, along with Prince Harry, took a little skiing holiday in Switzerland but the big news was on the potential of the Cambridge couple having a baby girl. The speculation arose after the Duchess, when speaking to some well-wishers at an event, seems to start to say the word “daughter”. However, too much should not be made of it as the Duchess quickly denied that was what she was going to say and insisted that neither she nor Prince William know the gender of their future addition.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A World Without the Hapsburgs, Part III

Concluded from Part II

And what of the two primary partners of the Dual-Monarchy? In the case of Hungary, it is hard to imagine there being a more unjust outcome than the peace following the Great War as it affected the Hungarians. No other European power was as horribly butchered as Hungary who were certainly no more guilty than any other major participant in the war. When it was over, Hungary lost 70% of its territory and roughly a third of its entire population to the post-war carve-up. And all of this in spite of the fact that the Hungarian prime minister had tried to avoid the march to war in 1914. Istvan Tisza, Prime Minister of Hungary, was reluctant to the last to link the assassination in Bosnia with the Serbian government, only supporting the war once the ultimatum to Belgrade had been sent and the ties between the government and the “Black Hand” were concretely proven. He was worried (correctly as it turned out) that while troops were fighting the Russians and Serbs that Romania would enter the war and attack Hungary. He also opposed the planned-for annexation of a conquered Serbia even though this was quite popular with many military leaders in Vienna at the time. Painted as a villain after the war, even those who were most in agreement with the Allies ended up suffering along with the rest.

People starved, froze and leading republican traitors in Hungary enabled this by actually disbanding the Hungarian military. In the chaos that followed, the communist dictator Bela Kun seized power and was only overthrown by the humiliation of a Romanian army occupying Budapest. Brutal civil war raged between “red” and “white” factions and while a somewhat better state of affairs eventually prevailed the (entirely nominal) Kingdom of Hungary was left in such a weakened state that it had little choice but to stay on good terms with Nazi Germany, and Hungary did briefly regain some territory in World War II but it all ended with Hungary coming under Soviet occupation and being forced to submit to a communist dictatorship that was a puppet-state for Moscow. The Hungarian people were brutalized, the economy was in near absolute ruin and they had only decades of Soviet slavery to look forward to. Many tens of thousands of people were killed in the rebellions against communist rule before the collapse of the USSR finally brought an end to that era. There likely would have been even more conflicts, as seen in other areas, but Hungary had been left in such a weakened state that there was very little it could do as the people were brutalized by a succession of enemies.

Finally, there is the case of Austria itself. The Austrians, deprived of their empire, were naturally inclined, originally, to unite with Germany simply for the sake of security and economic recovery. The Allies refused to allow this and civil war, again, broke out between communist and non-communist forces with real stability only being restored by the establishment of the so-called “Austrofascist” regime of Engelbert Dollfuss. Ignore the labels, Dollfuss was a good man and a man who began setting the stage for the restoration of the Hapsburg monarchy and the wider world, certainly Europe, should be more aware of Dollfuss and inter-war Austrian history because it was the one, great opportunity for the European community to have stopped Hitler in his tracks. Because Dollfuss was a proud, Austrian patriot he was the number one enemy of the Austrian Nazi Party which wanted union with the “Third Reich” and the key moment came when the Nazis assassinated Dollfuss in 1934. Benito Mussolini, thoroughly outraged, ordered a partial mobilization and rushed Italian troops to the border, threatening war with Germany if Hitler took one step into Austria to take advantage of the situation. At that stage, Italy could have potentially defeated the Germans and Hitler backed off.

Unfortunately, the other Allied powers did nothing to support Italy during the crisis at a time when Hitler was militarily weak and diplomatically isolated without a single major power supporting him. But no action was taken and what Allied unity there was soon broke up over, of all things, Ethiopia. France and Britain imposed economic sanctions on Italy after Mussolini went to war with Ethiopia and so the Duce finally dropped all pretense of friendship with the Allies and accepted the outstretched hand of Germany. That sealed the fate of Austria and any possibility of stopping Hitler and Nazism when it would have been the least difficult. Schuschnigg, Dollfuss’ successor, secretly agreed to restore the monarchy within a year when Hitler decided to move against him, having obtained the assurance of Mussolini that he would do nothing to stop him. And it was in large part specifically to stop a return of the House of Hapsburg that Hitler moved on Austria because he was afraid that the restored monarchy would be a beacon for unity to neighboring countries and that Hungary and Czechoslovakia might reunite and therefore pose a threat to Nazi Germany (which was still far from her full military potential).

When the Nazis occupied and annexed Austria it really was a turning point in European history. Before that, Germany was weak and surrounded by unfriendly powers. Afterwards, the military build-up continued, Italy was an ally, German strength was brought to the frontiers of Yugoslavia and Hungary, intimidating them into taking a more cooperative stance with Germany, isolating Czechoslovakia and so on. When the Allies finally decided to draw the line at Poland it was against a much stronger Germany with a network of support and in support of a country they could do nothing to directly assist. If they had earlier drawn the line at Austria there might have been no war in Europe at all. Germany was still weak, isolated and Austria could have been supported by the Allies via northern Italy and Hitler would have, in all likelihood been either contained or defeated outright and possibly overthrown by elements inside Germany itself. Like other countries, Austria went through civil war, foreign war, devastation and occupation which were all directly traceable to the fall of the monarchy but, more so than in others, the misfortune of Austria was the misfortune of Europe and much of the world. It is no exaggeration, it is a fact backed up by the evidence of history that the fall of the House of Hapsburg was a disaster, both for her member states and for people all around the world.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A World Without the Hapsburgs, Part II

Continued from Part I

Much the same could be said for Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia which were all more or less ceded to Serbia after World War I to create what eventually became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia but which was effectively the “Greater Serbia” that Serb nationalists had been longing for. In some ways things were better, but in others ways Yugoslavia was even more problematic than Czechoslovakia. One benefit was that the new created state was a monarchy, and even during the darkest days of World War II the monarchy was still able to unite many people, but it was the Serbian monarchy and an Orthodox monarchy and so was not as liable to be accepted by the great number of people who were not Serbian or Orthodox. True, the Hapsburg empire contained people of many different religious beliefs with Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims but, outside of Bosnia perhaps, the largest majority of people in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Hungary were Catholic just like their Imperial-Royal Family. And again, before, during and after World War I there was a renewed emphasis on nationalism and even without the religious differences there were bound to be problems between Serbs, Bosnians, Croats and Slovenes as well as other minority groups in Yugoslavia.

King Alexander I of Yugoslavia did his best to hold things together, outlawing political parties, regional distinctions (flags and such symbols), renaming things and centralizing power. How that may have worked in the long-run we will never know but in the short term it only embittered the nationalities further, though the King did have the good sense to ban the communist party which is always a smart move. The King was finally assassinated by a Bulgarian terrorist from a group that opposed Macedonia being part of Yugoslavia. He was succeeded by the young King Peter II, acted for by Prince-Regent Paul who was eventually forced into cooperating with the Rome-Berlin Axis. Ironically, the leaders of Yugoslavia, just like the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, finally determined that the only solution would be to federalize their country but they were prevented by the outbreak of World War II. Prince Paul was overthrown in a coup, King Peter II broke with the Axis and embraced the Allies which prompted the German and Italian invasion of Yugoslavia. The country was divided up again and there was horrific violence and cruelty as a civil war was basically fought throughout Yugoslavia in conjunction with World War II. The bitterness and desire for revenge would last for many decades to come.

In the end, as with most of the other successor-states of Austria-Hungary, it was the communists who emerged as the victors and Yugoslavia was forcibly put back together under the dictatorship of “Tito” and was even almost merged with Bulgaria in what would have been an even bigger witch’s supper but Stalin nixed that idea. For some reason which eludes me, some people romanticize Tito’s dictatorship but, while certainly not as bad as Albania or Cambodia, it was a communist tyranny with all of the injustice, cruelty and suffering that goes with that. Today, amazingly, many people view Tito as some sort of romantic, revolutionary figure or the “good” communist dictator, for seemingly no other reason than that he wanted to be a dictator and not simply the stooge of Stalin in Moscow. This is a dangerous mistake. Just because Communist Yugoslavia was not as bad as Pol Pot’s Cambodia does not mean it was a picnic and the member states have still not recovered from the impact of communist rule even today. Additionally, as we all know, when Tito died in 1980 the country began to fragment in the absence of the dictator and within ten years bitter and brutal civil war engulfed the region as the former Yugoslavia broke up.

The break-up of Austria-Hungary was certainly traumatic but it was nothing compared to the horror of the conflict that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia with massacres, reprisals and accusations of ethnic cleansing from both sides. This revealed that the unity of the old Yugoslavia had always been a complete fabrication and as soon as the iron grip of tyranny slipped for an instant the long-smoldering rage between the member ethnicities erupted into a conflagration which finally took outside intervention to restore some semblance of peace and order. The immediate question, of course, is whether the Hapsburg monarchy could have made any difference in preventing this tragedy. No one can ever say definitively what ‘might have been’ but the most probably answer is clearly “yes”. Much of the conflict (certainly not all) was between Croats and Serbs and with Croatia inside Austria-Hungary and Serbia outside of it, these two could have brought their full force to bear against each other. Further, we have the historical record to show that in all the years of Hapsburg rule such a bloodletting never took place. It may not satisfy idealists, but one practical reason for this was that minorities were sufficiently divided between the Austrian and Hungarian halves of the Dual-Monarchy that no one group could come together in sufficient strength to cause much trouble.

It is also worth noting that most of the bitterness seen in the civil wars can be traced back to some extent with the creation of Yugoslavia itself but even more so events in World War II rather than to Austria-Hungary. After World War I there was some, for lack of a better word, “bullying” by the victors against their defeated foes. This was not uncommon; the Poles were sometimes unkind toward the Germans in their country, though in light of subsequent events they attract little sympathy. Then, during World War II, the tables were turned and horrible reprisals were meted out, often with the backing of the Axis powers, and then after the Axis defeat there were reprisals of the reprisals and hatred grew and grew. It is beyond the realm of possibility that this could have happened under Emperor Charles I or a potential “Emperor Otto”. A Hapsburg Emperor, and this is certainly in keeping with the character of Archduke Otto, would have discouraged nationalism and ethnic hatred and with his combined forces could have restrained such radicals were that to become necessary.

Concluded in Part III

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A World Without the Hapsburgs, Part I

For most countries, when monarchy comes to an end there may be some wider repercussions but, for the most part, the impact is felt by the individual country in question alone. When it comes to the fall of the House of Hapsburg and the dissolution of that entity formerly known as Austria-Hungary, the absence of the monarchy has impacted numerous countries to the present time. Leaving aside the large or small pieces incorporated into other neighboring countries, there is still the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary and Slovakia that, in their entirety, were formerly part of the Dual-Monarchy of the House of Hapsburg. How have these lands progressed on their own without the monarchy that once bound them together? The short answer, obviously, would be, ‘not very well’. Whereas the Empire of Austria-Hungary, that last bastion of old Europe, while not a major world power, was certainly on the top tier on the world stage and a force to be taken seriously; separately, each of these powers is today barely known to most people around the world. This was something that most realized even at the time of the fall of Austria-Hungary or at least in the immediate aftermath.

This can be seen most clearly in our first case; Czechoslovakia. The first, most obvious thing that stands out about Czechoslovakia is that it was exactly what critics had previously dismissed Austria-Hungary for being, only worse; an inorganic state (which most of Austria-Hungary was not) that lumped together two major and various minor nationalities into one political unit. This was undeniably a weakness for the Austrian Empire, later Austria-Hungary, but it survived as long as it did because it was never based on nationality and never pretended to be. It was based on loyalty to a shared monarch which, obviously, Czechoslovakia lacked and in due time it broke up into the Czech and Slovak republics which exist today. Even then, however, it broke apart much sooner but was artificially put back together after World War II with the imposed unity that came with communist military force. Czechoslovakia was beset by problems between the Czechs and Slovaks from the very beginning (though this is often overlooked) but it also contained other minorities which proved to be problematic and in the same way that certain minorities were a problem for Austria-Hungary. This was the case when it came to ethnic minorities that did not lack a state but which existed outside a neighboring nation-state.

What is perhaps most ridiculous about this is that it was so clearly recognizable at the time and of course the minority that would prove most problematic would be the German minority, right next door to an increasingly racialist nation-state after the Nazis came to power in Germany. This was obviously going to be a problem as can be seen in the case of Italy for example. When the Allies, rather than taking away from the spoils promised to Serbia, handed Italy the Trentino-Alto Adige many Italian leaders, civil and military, were less than overjoyed, specifically because they feared that a concentrated German-speaking population would mean nothing but trouble in the future (and all the while there were Italian-populated areas that went to the new Yugoslavia). So no one can claim that, in the aftermath of the Great War, no one could foresee such difficulties might arise as certainly did arise for Czechoslovakia regarding the Sudeten Germans. The only hope Czechoslovakia had for her survival was in collective security, trusting to foreign alliances to keep them from being taken apart bit by bit at the expense of their neighbors. Allied leaders may, perhaps, have had a problem explaining why this was superior to the collective security that had previously been provided by the union of Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Magyars, Slovenes, and Croats etc under the banner of Austria-Hungary. Czechoslovakia was, essentially, simply a smaller and weaker version of Austria-Hungary which lacked the strengthening forces of shared history and the Hapsburg monarchy.

Under the House of Hapsburg, everyone at least had one monarch in common but, in republican Czechoslovakia, what did the Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians have in common? Moreover, whereas Emperor Charles I of Austria-Hungary had been prepared to federalize his empire, granting all groups equal status, in Czechoslovakia, despite what promises existed on paper, minorities were often treated badly. It may not be popular to say today in light of later events but the German population was really not treated terribly well and even the supposedly equal Slovaks were often frustrated by the fact that they came to hold a noticeably secondary status to the larger Czech community. The country eventually fell apart because of Nazi Germany, yet, the leadership of Czechoslovakia had always been more worried about the Hungarians and the “Little Entente” of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia was primarily aimed at Hungary. In one way this might be understandable as Hungary certainly had cause to be resentful as the Hungarians lost more than just about anyone in the post-war carve-up, but that is also partly why it did not work, because Yugoslavia and certainly Romania (at least when it came to Hungary) had more to lose than Czechoslovakia if war ever broke out with a Hungary intent on re-taking their lost territories.

So, in the end, Czechoslovakia fell apart. The Czech half fell under the domination of Hitler as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary and Poland took a slice and Slovakia only remained independent, essentially as a German protectorate, because Hitler, in so many words, told them that if they did not cooperate with him, he would let the Hungarians have at them. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reestablished by Allied agreement, though with the Soviet Union taking a slice of territory in the east and they brought decades of oppression, murder and an ever higher rate of poverty to a country that had previously been fairly prosperous. They also, contrary to the very Catholic Hapsburg monarchy, imposed a campaign of atheism on the country that proved horribly effective. Particularly in the Czech Republic, religious belief has declined rapidly to the point that the republic is, today, one of the least religious countries in the world. It is bad. If things continue at the rate they are going, one of these days they will be putting the Infant of Prague up for adoption. And, of course, as mentioned earlier, on the first day of 1993 the Czech and Slovak peoples divorced and have since joined the European Union -another multi-national collection of countries with little to nothing in common. The more things change right?

Continued in Part II

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Caliph of Islam in Turkey

It was on March 3, 1924 that the last Muslim caliphate was officially abolished and Abdul Mejid II, the last Caliph of Islam (and heir to the last Ottoman Sultan, his cousin) was removed from his position and expelled from Turkey by the first republican and then secular government of modern Turkey. Looking back, perhaps because of all that has happened in the world of the Middle East since, it seems slightly strange that the two positions did not disappear at the same time or that it was the position of Padishah Sultan that was abolished first. To be denied the title of Sultan while still retaining the title of Caliph seems rather like telling someone, ‘we do not trust you to be the ruler of our country but we still believe you are the representative of God on earth”. Does not quite make sense to me. For Turks who hold fast to their faith and the system of traditional authority embodied by the Sultan and Caliph this can only be a sad anniversary. Yet, outsiders should consider the occasion as well. The fall of the caliphate has not yielded much benefit for anyone; Turkish or not, Muslim or not.

Whether things would be a great deal better if there was still a Caliph in Turkey no one can say, but it could only be an improvement. Look beyond the Turkish borders for a moment and consider the worldwide problem today with terrorism. There are people of the worst sort, who are both murderers and cowards, carrying out terrible and despicable deeds all in the name of Islam. They butcher helpless innocents and call themselves “holy warriors”. And no one should make any mistake about what is in the hearts of these criminals, after all, the terrorists who carried out the 9-11 attacks in America spent their last night on earth at a strip club. The faithful these are certainly not. Yet, they have fooled many people into thinking that they are and by making such a claim they have blackened the name of Islam, perhaps worse than at any other point in history. I say that because, even in the days of the Crusades, a Christian like King Richard I could look at a Muslim like Sultan Saladin and consider him a brave and worthy adversary. Even in those days of open religious warfare Christians could respect the gallantry of their Muslim foes who would send their doctors to care for the Christian King.

There were terrible things that happened of course, but things were more organized and certainly it would be helpful if there were a Caliph of Islam who could speak with authority in denouncing the atrocities of the terrorists who kill the defenseless and claim to be religious men. However, as beneficial as that could be, there is also the very real possibility that such a Caliph would be ignored. Would Arab and other Muslims react positively to a Turkish Caliph of Islam? The question must be asked, I think, because the Ottoman Empire, led by the Sultan and Caliph, was brought down in part by Arab and other Muslims rising in rebellion against the Turkish Sultan and joining with the Allies (primarily the French and British) in bringing down and eventually breaking up the Ottoman Empire; the last caliphate. When, in the midst of World War I, the Sultan formally pronounced a jihad against the Allied powers, he was, for the most part, ignored by the rest of the Muslim world.

There is also the question as to whether or not our increasingly anti-traditional world would even tolerate such a figure. Turkey, for some reason which completely escapes my comprehension, seems desperate to join the European Union and the E.U. has certainly not shown itself to be favorably inclined toward organized religion. Would they allow Turkey into the E.U. if the Caliph was restored? Personally, I think that would be all the more reason to do it but I’m not Turkish and most seem to want to join the European Union. However, although the amount of wider good a restored Caliph might do is debatable, one certain thing is that the people of Turkey would have a better form of moral guidance and by going that extra step to restoring the monarchy there would be greater consistency and a form of government more in keeping with Turkish traditions and hearkening back to the days when Turkey was a great nation, a major world power and not reduced to the status of appealing for favors from the EU government in Brussels. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, having the Sultan and Caliph back would do none harm and possibly be of great benefit in countries far distant as a voice of legitimate authority.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

MM Sunday Scripture

Let every soul be in subjection to the higher power; for there is no power but of God, and the powers that be are ordained by God. Therefore, he that resisteth that power, withstandeth the ordinance of God; and they that withstand shall receive to themselves damnation.
-Romans 13:1-2

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Not a great deal of big news to report this time. Perhaps a slow news week or perhaps the headlines were too full of coverage on the last day “in office” for Pope Benedict XVI that little else was reported on. That was certainly the big news, the Pope leaving the Vatican but, having already commented on that, here is a short rundown on some royal events that made the papers:

Beginning, as usual, in the lands of Eternal Asia, the former Crown Prince of Nepal remains in critical condition in hospital in Bangkok, though doctors report some slight improvements. Family members have gone to be at his side and the former King Gyanandra cut short a trip to Simara to return to the capital, presumably because of the condition of Crown Prince Paras. Royalist groups in Chabahil held a “pooja” at Ganesthan Temple calling for a speedy recovery for the former royal heir. Elsewhere, the King of Tonga visited New Zealand this week where he was greeted by native Maori warriors and in The Philippines, President Aquino issued a stern warning on Tuesday to the elderly Sultan of Sulu that he would face the “full force of the law” unless the gunmen operating in his name withdrew from Malaysia. However, the 74-year-old Sultan Jamalul Kiram III held a press conference of his own, defiantly stating that the standoff with the forces of the Kingdom of Malaysia would continue until his demands are met, though he also insisted that his forces would not initiate any violence with the Malaysians but that they are prepared to defend their “lives and aspirations”. On Friday, three days after passing the extended deadline for the Filipino forces to leave, Malaysian police moved in on the group and a skirmish broke out, resulting in several casualties. Malaysian authorities regained control of the area but some of the gunmen reportedly escaped, promising to continue the fight. The Prime Minister of Malaysia has authorized security forces to take “any action” to eliminate the threat from this group.

On the European front, in Great Britain it was announced this week that Prince and Princess Michael of Kent are set to become grandparents for the first time with the news that Lord Frederick Windsor and wife Sophie Winkleman are in a “family way”. The couple live in Los Angeles where Lord Frederick is a financial advisor and Sophie is an actress. Back home, in keeping with tradition, the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was received at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday to formally pay homage to HM the Queen. It was also announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will visit Ireland next year and this week Prince Harry made the trip down to the south African Kingdom of Lesotho to check up on the work being done by his charity there. Prince William is also keeping up with his rescue-pilot duties, coming to the aid of a stranded pair of walkers in freezing conditions in Snowdonia after being reported missing by a friend. In more unfortunate news, HM the Queen had to cancel a planned to trip to Swansea for St David’s Day after coming down with gastroenteritis. We wish Her Majesty a speedy recovery.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sede Vacante

It is now official, the see is vacant, the throne is empty, there is no longer a Pope. At least until the conclave holds their next election anyway (sorry if that seemed over-dramatic). Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican as, well, not exactly a common cleric but as someone who is no longer the Roman Pontiff. He will still wear a white cassock, will still be addressed as “Your Holiness” but he has turned in his red shoes, will be protected by ordinary Vatican police rather than the Swiss Guard and his Fisherman’s ring has been smashed. A sad day but, from my point of view, somewhat anticlimactic but that was probably unavoidable. Nothing could really be done that would fittingly mark an occasion so historic that it has literally never happened before. One must go back six centuries for a papal “resignation” and even then, on the rare occasions it has happened, it was never really like this. As most readers know, I have been rather upset by this but, in case there is any confusion, I want to make it clear that I would not be as upset by it if not for the fact that I have always held Benedict XVI in the highest regard. He always seemed a very trustworthy hand on the helm. Yes, I know someone will say that God is always in charge and all that, so there is no need to worry, but it seems to me there is a Pope for a reason and any look at history will show that who that man is does matter.

For my part, a great deal of the anxiety over his resignation stems from the fact that Benedict XVI has, to my mind, done an excellent job in his years on the throne. Very early on I considered him one of the best popes of modern times, realizing that for some of the same reasons I thought so, he would never be accorded that status by the majority. I would think (though I cannot say for certain) his writings may have been his greatest achievement from a Christian perspective though I do not know personally anyone who has actually read them all. Certainly he will stand out for his establishment of the old Latin mass as the secondary “extraordinary form” of the mass and his efforts to make it more widely available. Sadly, the bishops did not seem to be very cooperative in this endeavor. Still, his efforts raised the status of the Latin mass considerably and probably changed the mainstream perspective on the Latin mass to something that should be accepted and honored rather than shrinking away from it as the territory of the disobedient and the schismatic. That is a considerable accomplishment on its own.

The outreach to disaffected Anglicans is another hallmark of his reign, though one that is not without some controversy. Some Anglicans were, of course, upset by this and saw it as an effort to encourage defections from their own dwindling ranks. There was a time when I might have been more broad-minded about such an issue, taking into account that each side believes they represent the true Christian message but, frankly, I can no longer do so. The state of the Anglican communion is entirely of their own making and given the extent to which so many have flagrantly turned their back on traditional Christianity, to the point that even the Bible itself can be repudiated, leaves me with little room for even theoretical sympathy with their point of view. As someone who favors the oldest and most traditional sort of Christianity, I was hopeful that, in welcoming disgruntled Anglicans (most of them very ‘high church’ types) into the Church of Rome it might work together with other actions by the Pontiff to ease Catholicism back into a more traditional direction than it has been on since the Second Vatican Council.

On that subject, I considered it a positive thing that Benedict XVI spoke of the need to ‘reform the reform’ (or words to that effect) in reference to Vatican II. Others can speak with greater authority on the wide array of subjects inside the Catholic Church related to the Council but to me there seems to be no room for doubt that things have grown progressively worse for the Catholic Church since that time. The ‘how’ and the ‘why’ can, and have been, debated at length but anyone can look at the basic statistics and see that, for whatever reason, Church attendance, numbers of priests and religious have all fallen off dramatically since the Council and, while I see nothing wrong with the content of the documents produced, again I think anyone can see that they were not implemented correctly. Could anyone honestly say that Pope John XXIII or Pope Paul VI would have approved of “clown masses”? I think not. Whether such a ‘reform of the reform’ will go forward under the next Pontiff remains to be seen but I would hope so.

Many have said that the changes of Vatican II were, in large part, about reaching out to Protestants. If so, it doesn’t seem to have worked very well in that regard and another area I recall Benedict XVI attracting considerable controversy was in his statement that the Protestant denominations are not true churches but that the “Church” is to refer only to the Catholic and Orthodox communities (though sadly these two had a tiff and have spent quite a few centuries giving each other the silent treatment). This seems to have outraged many Protestants though I cannot imagine why. I can understand anyone being upset that someone would say their church is not a “real” church in general but I do not really understand why a Protestant would be upset at the Pope saying that. It would be like a Christian getting upset at the Ayatollah for saying that Christianity is a false religion. He’s the Ayatollah -I would expect him to think that and say that. In the same way, if a Protestant, let us say a Lutheran, were to hear the Pope say, while sitting in the pew on Sunday, that he or she was in the “real” Church, I would think the Lutheran in question would probably run outside to check the sign in the front yard to make sure they were not in the wrong place. Are we all so sensitive these days or do so many people really not understand the fundamental difference between the Catholic and Orthodox on one side and the Protestant denominations on the other?

There was also the “controversy” over Benedict XVI making mention of religious conversions through violence being a bad thing (who would have though it would be) but I hesitate to even mention that as it seems so much a case of much ado about nothing. However, it was a far cry from that silliness once displayed at Assisi. Taken altogether, as well as with the efforts to reconcile the Society of St Pius X to the rest of the Catholic Church the reign of Benedict XVI can be seen as one favoring tradition, old-style Catholicism (winking at the odd coat of arms and the resignation itself) as well as one encouraging a defense of traditional values and an open and honest stand for basic Christian principles. All in all, I think he had a good run and I only wish it could have gone on longer. Still, we wish His Holiness a happy retirement and will wait and see who the Sacred College chooses to follow after him.
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